Since we've been home with our three children (THREE!) for a few days now, I thought it would be good to catch up a little on this bloggy record-keeping. Because while I don't scrapbook or keep baby books, I do keep this blog, and it serves as a record of our little family's days. So now, going back to the beginning, I will fill in some gaps left by secrecy, lack of time, or poor internet connection. (Don't worry; they won't all be this long.)
The original plan was to leave our home on Thursday, April 28 and go to Jacksonville to spend the night and see Haylee graduate. Then we were going to drive to Orlando, get the boys settled, and fly to DC on Saturday, April 20. After a night spent in DC, we'd hop aboard the long flight over the ocean, landing in Rwanda on May 2 and meeting our dear girl that afternoon.
Tuesday evening, April 26, we had just stopped at Panda Express for a special treat. I had spent the day before packing, and Tuesday had to take Iain to the doctor for his arm, and then spent the rest of the day trying to get ready to go. Went to the bank to get the cash we needed, but they didn't have the right bills and told me to come back on Wednesday. I never had the chance. As Jeremy ordered our food, I got a call from our POA in Rwanda (power of attorney). She said that Laina was very sick and in the hospital. She'd know more tomorrow and would call back around 2am our time to tell us how she was, and whether or not we should come early.
The world fell apart. I couldn't eat (didn't eat until when, sometime the next day? The day after?), couldn't think. We called a friend to come notarize the last of our documents in case we had to leave early, called close family, headed home. Found that there was a flight we could make if we left at 1:30am that night and drove to TN to get to the airport there. If we could pull off packing and saying goodbye to the boys, scaring up the cash we needed, finishing the documents, and get out the door, we could be with Laina on Thursday. We decided to go for it.
With help from my mom, Jenna and Curtis, and my dear friend Kelly, we pulled it off. I was a wreck, sick with worry over my girl, upset about leaving the boys so fast and without easing them (and me) into it. It was a horrible night. We drove out of the driveway at 1:30am and headed for Tennessee., arriving at 4:30am and boarding the plane to DC at 6. We heard from our POA that she was a little bit better, and we breathed a tiny sigh of relief.
We made it to DC and got on the flight (12? I forget) to head to Ethiopia. After a long night with (again) no sleep, we made it. Africa. The emotions I expected to feel were muted by worry and exhaustion, but we recognized nonetheless the amazing fact that now we were on the same continent as our daughter, and soon we'd be in her homeland. After another layover in ET, the final flight left. We stopped over in Uganda for about half an hour and then we were there. In Rwanda, the land we had dreamed of for almost two years. The circumstances were not what we had expected or hoped, but we were there. And soon we'd see our little girl. How was she? Would she be okay? What was the matter with her? How sick was she? Soon we'd know.
We took a cab to the hotel, Chez Lando, dropped our luggage in the room, and met up with our other POA. He took us straight to the hospital. The moment we had expected, driving down the bumpy dirt road to the blue gates. They swing open and we enter, full of joy and butterflies. We wait for a moment and then we see a woman dressed in a white and blue habit carrying her to us, bringing our daughter to our arms... this was not to be our moment. Instead, we nervously walked the breezeways in the hospital, stopping at a little room. Our POA knocked on the door and opened it. We eagerly, anxiously entered the tiny, stiflingly hot room. Four babies were lying on the beds, and two girls sat with them, talking and smiling at them, caring for them. The girls smiled at us, and I barely registered that as I scanned the room. Where was she? One of the girls moved aside and pointed at a tiny little girl lying on the right-hand bed near the window. Our daughter.
We had decided not to videotape our first meeting as we didn't have any idea how sick she'd be. But it plays in my mind like a movie. We walked toward her. She was on her right side, facing the aisle. She had an iv in her hand. I put my hand on her side and she immediately rolled over onto her back, looking me in the face. We talked to her for a moment, and then I picked her up. She played with my necklace. She didn't smile. She was so, so warm, but sweating, so I knew she wasn't feverish at the moment. I was glad for the iv, thinking that she needed the fluids. Here are the first pictures of us with our Laina, at the time known as Epiphanie.
We talked to Laina for a while and held her. We fed her some pedialite. We loved on the other sick babies and prayed for them. We talked to the girls who cared for them and found out some about Laina's past. We checked on the baby of our friends who would arrive the next day. We kissed Laina goodnight and promised to come check on her tomorrow. And then we left.
Then we headed to the orphanage and saw those blue gates open. We met with one of the nuns and talked about Epiphanie and how she was doing. The sister seemed glad that we were there loving on our girl. It was the absolute right decision, stressful as it was. We needed to be with her and she needed her parents there.
Turns out that Laina had pneumonia. She had had a high fever, was dehydrated, and because she's so small, was going downhill fast. I'm glad we didn't know at the time how bad she had been. The sisters took her to the hospital and by the time we made it there, she was on the mend. Many people in Rwanda prayed for our little girl: the sisters, our POA and his church. Many people in America prayed too. How this baby is loved!
By this time it was late. We stopped for pizza (yum!) at Sola Luna, and then hit the sack and slept for the first time in days. We were in Rwanda. Laina was going to be okay. We had met her, finally, after so many days of waiting, and she was ours. That day, April 28, 2011, I held my daughter in my arms, and then her daddy did the same. The fulfillment of a dream may not have looked the way I expected, a stuffy hospital room instead of a flowering courtyard, the feelings of anxiety and stress instead of excitement and joy, but the dream in my arms was exactly the one I had prayed for. Our daughter. Laina Kate. Thanks be to God.